EU referendum: Brexit is dominating the conversation at the Cannes Festival of Creativity 2016

Matt Parkes
Cannes From The Air - The 67th Annual Cannes Film Festival
Cannes is host to the annual Festival of Creativity (Source: Getty)

The annual Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity is well under way, and here in sunny France, the mood is a little different this year.

Yes, there is the usual showcasing of fantastic creative talent, from design triumphs to breakthrough ad campaigns, but this year, there are no personal agendas.

One major question is dominating the lecture theatres, the beach parties and the awards ceremonies: How will Britain vote at the polls today?

Brexit Britain: What you need to know

Politics and the creative industries are uncomfortable but not unlikely bedfellows. Aside from the fact that design, advertising and media all themselves play a significant role in how political campaigns are run and received by the public, political issues can also be hugely influential factors for brands plotting their next creative move.

How would Brexit affect creativity?

With regards to the EU vote, the impact on creativity is the biggest concern among the industry gathered here in Cannes.

And these conversations are happening with people from across the world – not just Europe. There is a real sense that this vote is hugely important and will have real, long-lasting effects on the way we do business.

Will it affect the recruitment and movement of talent? Will it affect current and future client relationships? Will it isolate Britain? Or will it make us stronger? Most agencies now after all are truly global, with offices in the US, South America and Asia.

Read more: Why design is finally having its day

Recent reports show that in the coming years, millions of Chinese designers will be emerging onto the global scene, for example. So maybe it’s time for us to stop viewing Europe, and London, as the epicentre of creativity. And maybe this vote, however it goes, will be the driver for this.

People will vote whichever way they choose, and from what we’ve seen this week, the issue is dominating people’s hearts and minds more than anything else has in recent years. And this is what is interesting – how much this debate is filtering into the wider conversations around creativity and business.

Uncertain outcomes

The Cannes Festival of Creativity is this year, as it is every year, first and foremost about celebrating the work we do as an industry, showcasing the ground-breaking creative being produced across the world, and inspiring ourselves and our peers through thought-provoking debates, giving knowledge today to make a difference tomorrow.

Read more: #DogsAtPollingStations is the referendum light relief we need

A key focus throughout the 2016 festival has been technology and innovation – it’s truly astonishing how big a role this is playing and will continue to play in the future of creativity. But this year there is an added sense of uncertainty.

The decision we are making in the UK this week, whichever way the results fall, will impact creativity forever, even if we don’t know exactly when and how yet.

For an industry that is trained to think outside the box, our biggest concern at the moment is what’s inside the box.

And whatever happens at the polls this week, one thing is sure: the future of our industry is dependent on which box voters choose to tick on their ballot papers.

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